PHOENIX—Nathan Rehm, a trauma therapist working at a mental health clinic, has worked with hundreds of clients to improve their health and well-being. He is professionally trained in empathy and an expert in fostering harmony among people and families. He was quite moved after watching the sold out evening showing of Shen Yun Performing Arts at the Orpheum Theatre on April 3, 2016.
“I love the performance. It was just beautiful. I was captivated the whole time. I especially appreciated the color and the emphasis on how the divine and worldly overlap each other, and the connection between the sacred and the worldly. It was just beautiful,” he said.
Shen Yun is a New York-based, classical Chinese dance and music company that tours to some 100 cities in more than 20 countries across five continents each year. Its mission is to revive the beauty and values of China’s cultural heritage, which has been nearly lost.
Since ancient times, China has been called the Middle Kingdom and the “Celestial Empire.” It refers to a land where the divine and mortals coexisted. Chinese people have a traditional belief that their culture was a gift from the heavens, and believe their music, traditional clothing, and value system are “divinely inspired.”
Since the time of the Yellow Emperor over 5,000 years ago, Chinese people have been taught to be in harmony with heaven, earth, and other people. Mr. Rehm enjoyed this theme in the performance.
“As a therapist, I really see the emphasis on harmony [in Shen Yun]. In therapy, I talk a lot about harmony with our own selves, harmony with other people, and harmony with the world. And that’s the thing I love about Chinese spirituality and what I saw in the performance,” he said, adding that the depiction of divine beings and their movements was beautiful.
Mr. Rehm referred to a piece called “Fairies of the Sea.” Shen Yun’s program book states, “Ancient Chinese legends speak of delicate fairy maidens, only visible to the pure of heart.” Their long, silk fans look like rippling waves set against a massive backdrop of azure ocean. The illustration was mesmerizing.
Mr. Rehm felt inspired to be loving and hopeful after watching Shen Yun.
“I want to be like the water and waves from the sea fairies,” he said. “Whatever comes from other people, whether they like me or don’t like me, I just want to go with it and be very loving and supportive.”
“There is always hope,” he said. “The world and human beings want and desire harmony with one another,” especially since so much strife exists nowadays in families and throughout the world, he added.
Mr. Rehm enjoyed how, in various vignettes throughout the performance, family members support each other and even divine beings offer assistance to faithful people who are in need.
“There was just always a reason to have hope,” he said.
The performance made Mr. Reid think about how he can continue to support people in his life. “How can I be in harmony with this person who is in need, how can I be in harmony with a family member or friend who just needs a little bit of help?”
Traditional Chinese culture is deeply imbued with spirituality. With Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism serving as the bedrock of their belief system, Chinese people for thousands of years have expressed respect for the heavens and reverence for the divine.
Mr. Rehm enjoyed seeing these principles acted out on stage. “They talked a lot about this idea that we are sent from Heaven, and humans are coming to earth in order to await salvation, [and] return back home. It was beautiful,” he said.
Expressing Feelings, Down to the Details
Mr. Rehm was moved by the loftier aspects of the performance that compelled him to think about his values and interrelationships, and he explained how all aspects of the performance contributed to the overall effect.
“I do love the music; the music was wonderful,” he said, referring to the live orchestra that combines Eastern and Western instruments. “The music complemented the performances very well.”
The orchestra uses Western instruments as its foundation, while Chinese instruments lead the melodies. “The ensemble at once expresses both the grandeur of a Western orchestra and the distinct sensibilities of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization,” Shen Yun’s website states.
Mr. Rehm noticed that the music accentuated the feelings of the dancers.
“The music really carried you with the feeling that you were getting. In times of tension, you would feel the tension in the music. When relief comes in the performance [you] also feel [it in] the music,” he said. “Which is wonderful.”
Mr. Rehm sat with his parents near the front of the theater, and he noticed how the dancers’ facial expressions conveyed deep emotions.
In a piece called “The Lady of the Moon,” which retells the classic legend of the origins of the moon goddess Chang’E, a man and woman who are deeply devoted to each other are separated by unfortunate circumstances.
Mr. Rehm explains, “The gentleman has his loved one taken away to the moon, and you could just see on his face the longing to go with her. Many times I found myself even tearing up a little bit. It was just very emotional. There is just so much going on that carries emotion.”
A Shen Yun performance includes approximately 20 vignettes, and in each dance piece, performers wear different, brilliantly colored costumes.
“The costumes are lovely. I would even notice the small details that I’m sure have historical significance,” he said. “A lot [of] thought and care went into this performance, even small things like that.”
Despite Shen Yun’s critical acclaim worldwide and theaters across the United States being sold out regularly, the company cannot perform in China because of the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship and repression of artistic expression.
Mr. Rehm applauds Shen Yun for shining a light on this issue.
“I think what’s inspirational is how they talk so honestly about the oppression that is happening in China and really calling that out and calling attention to it, which maybe the West is not so aware of and needs to be more aware of.
“I just love how this performance not only entertains people but also inspires them and really carries out traditions that may have been lost because of the oppression. Because of the oppression, things like this are just all the more important. And we are really grateful to be a part of it tonight.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Albert Roman
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has four touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. For more information, visit Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time. We have proudly covered audience reactions since Shen Yun’s inception in 2006.